If there was ever an “underdog” story of man and machine, Porsche would undoubtedly be in the running for the podium. Aside from the well-documented struggles that the Porsche family endured after WWII, there is the car itself that spearheaded their legacy, the type 356.
A meager 1100cc powered coupe loosely based on the design of the VW beetle, this was indeed the farthest thing from a caged bull-dog ready to fight. And then there is the race…the race, which can both destroy or define one’s fate for a lifetime; the Le Mans 24. Fortunately for Porsche on June 24, 1951, the latter prevailed, launching a legacy that is still revered seven decades later.
To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Porsche’s first class win at the Le Mans 24, what better than rolling out the actual car that took the checkered flag, chassis 356/2-063.
With the priceless racer currently on display at the Petersen Automobile Museum in Los Angeles, CA, it was all meant to be that its current owner Cameron Healy, restorer Rod Emory, and the car itself be united once again to share the story of Porsche’s first racing milestone.
Due to limited capacity restrictions, the event quickly filled up with Porsche enthusiasts from across Southern California. Mainly air-cooled Porsches arrived and were directed to the upper parking lot where everyone awaited the streamlined treasure to be rolled outside.
With its owner Cameron Healy behind the wheel, gravity did most of the work as the car was pushed down a long ramp and guided to center stage for the crowd to appreciate. After some cheers and clapping, Cameron took the mic and expressed his gratefulness and admiration for the car that put Porsche on the map.
The car’s restorer Rod Emory then explained how his first vintage racer was highly influenced by Porsche’s “Gmünd 356 SL” cars, and shared some facts about the restoration. Paramount to this undertaking was recreating its roof that was cut off back in the 1950s to save weight.
In fact, it was during the intense research of the car for its authentic restoration that it was discovered this chassis was the class-winning Le Mans 24 car, and not the one at the Porsche Museum, long thought to be the winner.
Finally, artist Dwight Knowlton, founder of Carpe Viam (seize the road), gave a sneak preview into his new book “Destined for Victory”, a beautifully illustrated work covering the car’s class victory at Le Mans.
All combined, the small enthusiastic crowd, blue skies, and history-rich Petersen Museum made for the perfect setting to look back 70 years and pay respect to a car that launched a brand on the world stage of Sports Cars.
For those unable to attend, note that Porsche chassis 356/2-063 is currently part of the exhibit “Redefining Performance” which embraces Porsche’s history of engineering achievements built on limited resources.